Impulsive youth: First passage from ‘Summer of the Black Chevy’

Here I am at our College Avenue house in Deer Lodge, Montana, in 1964. The bow tie suggests it was Easter. My bedroom was behind the tall window. That was a few years before I moved into the bedroom in the garage. (Kevin S. Giles photo)

Here I am at our College Avenue house in Deer Lodge, Montana, in 1964. The bow tie suggests it was Easter. My bedroom was behind the tall window. That was a few years before I moved into the bedroom in the garage. I was about the same age as my Summer of the Black Chevy protagonist, Paul Morrison. (Kevin S. Giles photo)

By Kevin S. Giles

I drove to an alley a few blocks from where Max lived. When I killed the engine the car fell silent with a whimper, sorry to see us go. A big moon emerged over the mountains, shining a great wash of light over our criminal undertaking. Blue wanted to throw the keys in the bushes. I put them on the floorboard beside the gas pedal instead. Maybe Louie would find the Chevy and drive off and forget about me. I’m just a boy.

We slipped to our houses through backyards, under clotheslines and around garages, sometimes hearing a dog’s low growl. When we parted I stuck to the deep shadows. I felt some relief at seeing the porch light burning at my house until I met my mother, a sentry in curlers, waiting at the kitchen table with a look that would set fire to an igloo.

“Where have you been, young man? We both know the dance got over a long time ago.” I knew by her curt tone of voice how the line of questioning would go.

“I was out walking around with Blue and Max.” It was better not to offer details when making up a lie. Otherwise the conversation would become longer and more involved.

Chevy manuscript

This is how the manuscript for Summer of the Black Chevy looked at one point. This was a mild editing job, so apparently I was near the end of several drafts.

“What possibly could you be doing in Deer Lodge until this time of night?” She arched her eyebrows at our orange wall clock for emphasis. She loved orange. Everything in that kitchen was orange, even the phone, but she’d never use it to call anyone past ten o’clock. That’s how I knew she didn’t have anything on me like some parents did when they checked around and gave their kids the business after catching them in a lie. Max got the belt once when his old man found out he smoked cigarettes in Terry Musselman’s garage. Max told me he almost fell over after taking the first puff but that was nothing compared with what happened when his parents found out. His old man smacked him hard. Then he pulled out a pack of unfiltered Camels and made Max smoke four or five of them at the kitchen table. Max puked all night.

“Not too bad once you get the hang of it,” Max reported to me and Blue the next day at school.

I felt obliged to follow my mother’s eyes to the clock, given her preoccupation with it. I was surprised to see it was after midnight. I guess we had put some miles on that Chevy.

(This excerpt was taken from my new novel, Summer of the Black Chevy, which is available through BookLocker.com and soon, other major online bookstores. Watch for other excerpts in coming weeks.)